Professional Attitudes towards Mental Illness: Testing the Contact Hypothesis among Nurses of Ethnic Anglo and Chinese Australian Backgrounds


Background: Professional attitudes towards mental illness may be related to contact level and ethnicity has not been thoroughly examined in health care practices although this has been stated to be the case. The literature indicated contact through a course of study or clinical placement usually improved attitudes of health workers towards mental illness. Purpose: The aim of this study was to develop a measure (labelled as Contact with Psychiatric Patient (CPP) Scale to compare attitudes towards mental illness between General and Psychiatric nurses of Anglo and Chinese Australian backgrounds. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was presented to 76 general and 132 psychiatric nurses. Twenty one questions of the nurse-patient contact level were asked. Principal component analyses (with oblique rotation) were used to identify underlying dimensionality in the correlations of items. Subscale score variations were analysed across nurse type and ethnicity to examine the discriminant validity of the subscales. Results: Principal component analysis revealed four dimensions accounting for 67.3 percent of the variation within items. Four “conceptual” factors were derived. These were labelled Contact-Through-Work Situation, Patient Helps Nurse, Relative to Mental Illness and External Socialisation with Patient. Developed as subscales, reliability analysis indicated moderate to high internal consistency with respective alpha coefficients of 0.94, 0.73, 0.55 and 0.81. There was significant variation in scale scores according to nurse type (psychiatric versus general) and ethnicity (Anglo versus Chinese). Psychiatric nurses endorsed a higher level of contact level than general nurses. Conclusion: Psychometric evaluation of the CPP suggests that it is a reliable instrument for measuring four key dimensions of the nurse-patient contact relationship and it enables the study of this relationship cross-culturally in large samples.

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Ku, T. , Ha, M. and Siriwan, U. (2015) Professional Attitudes towards Mental Illness: Testing the Contact Hypothesis among Nurses of Ethnic Anglo and Chinese Australian Backgrounds. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 130-138. doi: 10.4236/jss.2015.37022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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